Eastern Soul

The Indian Type Foundry

As someone interested in web design and with a basic knowledge of Hindi, I was fascinated by the Indian Type Foundry, an entry in this year’s Design of the Year awards at the Design Museum in London.

The Indian Type Foundry aims to give as much attention to Non-Latin as to Latin fonts. It’s the first company to develop and directly distribute digital fonts in India; the first font being Fedra Hindi. The project was recently recognised by the Society of Typographic Aficionados.

The first work focussed on Devanagari, but other scripts, Bengali, Gujarati, Gurmukhi, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, Tamil, and Telugu will be also explored.

It wasn’t something I’d really ever thought about, but apparently India has long lacked typefaces. The very few which exist were designed by foreign software giants or as corporate fonts for the exclusive use of global companies. There are virtually no typeface collections that can be licensed by Indian designers.

There are many reasons for this; the several hundreds of languages spoken in India, written in any of the 9 Indic scripts, all of which are very complex and extremely time consuming to digitise. There is little standardisation, and major design applications such Adobe Creative Suite do not support any Indic languages. Additionally the high level of piracy discourages potentially interested parties from pursuing development activities in India.

When I’ve been in India, I remember seeing beautiful, hand-crafted Hindi signs, in a wide variety of font styles. It seems surprising that it has taken so long to offer the same diversity in digital fonts, but welcome and exciting nonetheless. Along with the recent introduction of non-Latin web addresses it’s something making the web more Eastern